University of Pittsburgh
December 9, 1998


Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH, Dec. 10 -- Luis Lehner, a recent graduate from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Pittsburgh, is the winner of the 1998 Council of Graduate Schools/University Microfilms International Distinguished Dissertation Award in the field of mathematical and physical sciences and engineering. Lehner will receive the award today at the Council's annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

In October Lehner was named the winner of the 1999 Nicholas Metropolis Award for outstanding doctoral thesis work in computational physics, presented by the American Physical Society (APS).

Lehner, a native of Argentina who received his Ph.D. from Pitt at the end of the spring 1998 term, was selected by the Council of Graduate Schools for his dissertation, "Gravitational Radiation from Black Hole Space-Times," which examined the use of computational techniques to describe the gravitational characteristics of black holes.

While at Pitt, Lehner worked on a team that is trying to construct a computational model of gravitational waves from moving black holes. The work is associated with one of the "Grand Challenges" of physics and the development of the Laser Interferometric Gravity Observatory (LIGO), a project of the National Science Foundation.

Instruments like LIGO will benefit from computational models, said Lehner, because detecting gravitational waves is an expensive and complex undertaking. "Unfortunately, not only are these signals extremely weak, but the detectors will receive them along with 'background noise,' or waves of a different nature, like seismic, thermal, radio waves, etc., that will make detection incredibly difficult. Having a description of what the gravitational signal should look like will expedite its search and analysis."

Now in a post-doctoral position at the University of Texas, Lehner describes his time at Pitt as very rewarding. "I was able to interact with an excellent group in general relativity which let me grow both as a physicist and as a person. First and foremost with Jeffrey Winicour, my advisor. He encouraged me to try my best and patiently directed me to find the answers to my problems. I also had the pleasure of working with Dr. Roberto Gomez, professor Winicour's right hand, who possesses the valuable combination of physics insight and computational expertise."